THE SHOES THAT WERE DANCED TO PIECES
by James Fagan Tait
Boca del Lupo
Prospect Point Picnic Area
July 12-Aug. 4
Tickets free at:
Boca del Lupo has set the bar very high for itself with its popular summer shows in Stanley Park. It advertises them as “Free, Outdoors, All-ages, Roving Spectaculars.” Last year’s Vasily the Luckless was all those things and more, earning the company a well-deserved basketful of Jessie awards.
The same team that brought us Vasily has created The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces, another adapted folk-tale. It is free and outdoors, roving through Stanley Park’s majestic woods and beautiful trails. But pitched directly at young kids, it’s not really for all ages. And though charming, hardly anything about it is spectacular. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Boca’s previous work.
Their trademark has been the adventurous, imaginative use of big trees, rigging actors to do amazing, unexpected things way up in a giant cedar or dangling from a harness above the audience’s heads. They’ve created unique contraptions to help tell their stories, along with witty scripts and Joelsya Pankanea’s lively musical compositions.
This script by James Fagan Tait has little pizzazz. A cobbler (Andy Thompson) tells the story of a king (Ari Solomon) whose ten daughters mysteriously dance their shoes to pieces every night even though he locks them in their room. He offers any man who can solve the mystery his choice of a daughter in marriage—but if he fails, he loses his head. A character known as Poor Guy (Thomas Conlin Jones) takes up the challenge. He leads us from scene to scene, kibbitzing with the kids (who know that the wine is really a sleeping potion) and getting their advice (“Don’t drink it!!”) as he spends a night with the daughters, led by Lois Anderson and Kelly Metzger.
The rigging gets used only minimally. The cobbler flies down on a wire. Anderson and Metzger sing a song while hanging about twenty feet up. And the daughters exit their bedroom, a net at about the same height, by sliding down knotted sheets.
But most of the show is earthbound in every sense. We move from place to place in the forest for mostly unexciting scenes that don’t advance the plot and lack theatrical magic. A plotline involving poor people never gets developed. The big dance number is pretty flat and the ending even flatter. Even Pankanea’s music, played live, is downbeat and rather dull. The lyrics of the dance—a waltz—go like this: “1-2-3, 1-2-3, dance la la la la.”
The show, held over to Aug. 4, is sold out for its entire run but you can get on a waiting list by showing up an hour before the performance.